It had been a couple of years since we’d hiked Rumford Whitecap together. As we drove north we recalled summer, fall and winter adventures on the loop trail, but never spring. And so today, we rectified that.
The 761-acre Rumford Whitecap Mountain Preserve was purchased by the Mahoosuc Land Trust in 2007. Our preferred route is to hike up the Orange/Red Trail and descend via the Starr Trail denoted by yellow blazes.
As we ascended, we chatted about our relatives and friends who had and do serve in the Armed Forces, including grandparents, dads, uncles, my brother-in-law, cousins, friends, and classmates.
Memorial Day was always special in our home growing up as my hometown celebrated with a parade that sometimes featured my siblings, neighbors, and me. Before it became a Monday holiday, it was celebrated the day before my mom’s birthday, so we always noted that the parade was held in her honor. And furthermore, her younger brother died in WWII, so it was a celebration of his service and life. I noted today that I only have known him all these years through photographs of a handsome young man, and stories of his youthful adventures.
Because we were chatting and spending much of our time looking at the ground to avoid tripping on rocks or roots, the trail passed quickly under our feet. Suddenly, I realized we were in an area of mature American Beech trees and so I started to search the bark on our never ending quest of bear claw marks. Two seconds later and bingo–I spotted one tree with a couple and then together we found another with many scars made by the bear’s long, sharp claws.
Some were older than others, and it appeared that during the mast beechnut year we had two and three years ago, this tree had been climbed several times.
We felt instant satisfaction for our efforts and continued to look as we followed the trail to the summit. But . . . we never found another.
That was okay as there was much more to see including the fluttering petals of Serviceberry or Eastern Shadbush, a shrub that loves the understory. According to Dr. Michael L. Cline’s Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest, the names Serviceberry and Shadbush “refers to early flowering corresponding to the time that those departed in winter could be interred and when anadromous shad returned to major rivers in spring.”
The natural community changes several times on this mountain, like many, and eventually it thins into a bald with islands of lichens, Black Crowberry, Alpine Bilberry, Lowbush Blueberry, Leatherleaf, Sheep Laurel, and . . . Red Pines. The summit is host to one of the largest Red Pine communities in the state–some dwarfed by the wind that flows across the granite daily.
Others standing tall in their military stature.
The wind was welcome as we continued up the granite pegmatite, and then a deposit appeared before our eyes and we knew we were indeed in the right place for this Mondate–Black Bear scat. By its color and texture, it was obvious that Ursus americanus had dined on the organ meat of a hairy critter. Too much information, I’m sure, but consider the wildness of it all.
Given all the blueberry blossoms, we suspect Ursus will return. Be ye forewarned.
At the summit, it’s always fun to find a survey monument-–the bronze disks used by surveyors since 1879 for mapping purposes.
From there (lunch rock–why does PB&J always taste so good when one hikes?) we took in the view toward Black Mountain in the near beyond,
Rumford in the valley below,
and several ridges covered with wind turbines. I’m of two minds on this topic–the old wishy-washy self that I am. In Canada, wind turbines are located across the landscape and even as we hiked the Cape Mabou trails on Cape Breton Island a few years ago, we stood below one and listened to its airplane engine-like sound, but we didn’t hear it until we were quite close. I actually think they are quite beautiful as they turn–ballet of a sort.
At last it was time to get out of the chilly wind and begin our descent. If you look closely, you might spot Sunday River with a wee bit of snow still on the ski trails. But . . . you have to look closely (Faith–I’m talking to you!)
It was on the way down the bald peak that I noticed the pompoms of several Tamarack (Larch) trees–because we don’t meet on an every day basis, they always bring a smile to my face.
We slipped from the Orange/Red trail to the Starr and found Rhodora beginning to bloom–its magenta buds bursting with pride prior to its leaves.
Pollination was happening everywhere we turned, including by Hover Flies becoming familiar with Pin Cherries.
The trail down was sometimes wooded and other times granite. As I was about to step up onto one slab, a mottled design captured my attention. It would have been easy to overlook for so well did it blend in–even seeming to mimic green lichen. But . . . it was a moth that hugged the stone face.
Soon after I made a curious observation. Colonies of Painted Trillium greeted us several times, but always at a higher elevation. I know they grow low, for I’ve encountered them many times, but it had to be a soil consideration that I don’t yet understand that caused such behavior.
Those that we saw had not yet been pollinated for their petals were not translucent . . . a give-away trait.
Further down the trail, we began to meet patches of Stinking Ben, aka Red Trillium.
There were also selections of White Quartz to admire.
And tiny Bluets that edged the lower pathway. Red, White, and Blue.
Being a Bear to Beer, we honored the hike and the day with a few sips at Sunday River Brewing Company in Bethel before heading home.
But really, the sight that best represented the day was the Red Admiral–red, white, and blue all in one. And an admiral to boot.
Thank you to all who have sacrificed your lives for our country. I did spend much of the day thinking about the peace and freedom that my guy and I enjoy. And the fact that we were surrounded by a variety of colors other than those of the American flag, which made me think of how the American Flag represents so many no matter their color or creed. And wondering why we can’t all agree to get along. We don’t have to like each other, but why can’t we agree to disagree and leave it at that?
Bear to Beer possibilities: Rumford Whitecap on Memorial Day.
Peace be with you.
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